Thursday, September 15, 2011

Homemade burgers have become a bit of a permanent fixture in our house - we eat them at least once a week. They are easy and convenient and in a effort to make them as healthy as possible we stick to a few basic rules:

  • Instead of burger buns we use wholemeal or whole/multi grain baguettes (this works well for a crowd as you can make a couple of baguettes into burgers and carve then up sub-way style!)
  • Mayo is always 'light; and used instead of butter
  • The burgers them selves are made from either Chicken breast, Turkey Mince or Fish
I generally use the following base:

Take a baguette and split it down the middle so you are left with a separate top and bottom. Slather both sides with light mayo. Top the bottom half with leaves (I stick to a mixture of baby leaves - spinach, rocket etc). Then top with grilled chicken breast, turkey mince pattie or fish, sliced red onion and batons of cucumber (seeds removed).

That's basically it - but here are a couple of few flavour variations to make things interesting:

Lime and Coriander Chicken Burger:

Place the juice of 2 limes, 1 clove of garlic (crushed) and about 2 teaspoons of sugar or agave syrup and a pinch of salt into a jar and shake. Set aside until ready to cook. (I like using agave as I always have it in the cupboard and as its a syrup you don't need to dissolve it)

Take 1/3 cup mayo, juice of 1 lime, 1 green chilli, a small handful of coriander and 1 of mint and chop all finely - mix into the mayo and slather on both sides of the baguette (let the size of the baguette dictate how much may you make - I tend to err on the generous side as the mixture will keep)

Take the chicken breasts and lay on the chopping board with your hand firmly over the thickest part of the breast. With a sharp knife start slicing the breast in half length ways, starting at the thick end of the breast ending at the narrow end. The aim is to end up with two skinny fillets per breast, as these cook faster and and fit on the baguette better.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a hot pan, season the fillets and place in the pan. As they fillets cook baste constantly with the Lime mixture until you have used it all. , about a minute before you are ready to take the chicken off the heat, splash the chicken with soy sauce (Id say between 1-2 tablespoons). The aim is to end up with beautifully caramelised fillets.

Assemble the burger as per above and enjoy!!!!!

Fish Finger Burger!!

Take 1/3 cup mayo, juice of 1/2 lemon, handful of gherkins, 1/2 small red onion, chop both finely. Mix into the mayo and slather on both sides of the baguette.

Grill your favourite white flesh fish - For sea bass, I season lightly and leave the skin on as the skin goes nice and crispy when cooked. If I use cod, haddock or the like I will pat down with while flour that has been seasoned with salt, pepper and finely chopped fresh dill, and then pan fry in some butter.

Assemble the burger as per above and enjoy!!!!!

The great thing about the burgers are you can go as light or as heavy handed with the condiments/herbs and onions as you like and a good chilli sauce never goes astray either.

The phots on this post were taken by my gorgeous photographer friend Britt Spring....
A fellow Antipodean ex-pat she suggested I cook while she took photos.... we had a great time, and even enlisted a few friends to come along and make the night even more hilarious.... However, next time I let someone photograph me while I cook I'm definitely going to book a hair and make-up session first!!!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Eating and Drinking in Manly, Australia 

A few years back my Sister left the hustle and hype of North London and eventually found her self living in the uber cool beachside suburb of Manly, Australia.

What a place!!

In my early twenties I had toyed with the idea of moving from sleepy old Canberra to Manly - a place that effortlessly managed to capture the atmostphere of any Australian beach side town while maintaining the excitment and manic nature of a big city. I never quite got there... somehow moving to Sydney seemed like too big a jump .. and then I ended up in London... Go Figure!!

On my recent sojourn, my sis showed me around her town and introduced me to her life as a Sydney-sider. Some of the highlights were High Tea at Gunners Barracks, Macroons at Adriano Zumbo and Cocktails at Miss Marley's!

The Tea Room at Gunners Barracks was worth a visit for the view alone:

While you stare out at the above - you get to indulge in the below!!

The Perfect spot to wow visitors to Australia... and for Lunching Ladies!!

Adriano Zumbo's Macroons were unbelievable!! I can honestly say I have never eaten anything like them. Some of my favorite flavours were Salted butter caramel, Passionfruit, Rosewater - and some of the flavours I would love to try are Kaffir Lime and Ginger, and Strawberries and Cream. You can even buy a box called White chocolate roulette that features 4 white chocolate Macroons and the fifth (which looks just like the rest) is Mega Death Chilli!!! Amazing and TOTALLY worth the visit!

The perfect end to an evening in Manly is to take a visit to Miss Marley's. We had a couple of wonderful evenings at this little spot: its small, intimate with great lighting (something International Foodie rates VERY highly!) and the drinks... oh the drinks!!

In fact to call them drinks is a bit cheeky as Miss Marley's introduces you to a sophisticated world that exists in the martini glass, reaching beyond the standard rum and coke or vodka and cranberry. 

We tried the bartenders homemade Lemoncello cream, the Mexi'cant cocktail (an amazing concoction featuring Kumquat marmalade and smashed lemon grass) a fantastic banquet of Spanish style tapas that complimented our drinks perfectly... and the headliner - sangrita!!!

The sangrita is a cocktail served in two glasses and designed to be enjoyed by sipping from both glasses. The first glass features a delicious, herbaceous tomato juice that is made fresh every day. Its is unlike any tomato juice I have ever tasted and is a complete pleasure to drink all on its own... however when you couple it with the second glass, cold, high quality tequila, the results are amazing!!    

Just before we left Sydney to return to ole' Blighty, we had the pleasure of attending a friend's wedding. Once part of our London Family, the bride had also relocated to Manly and and it was there that she  found her Italian Prince. The reception was held at a wonderful Italian restaurant in Terry Hills and the menu was a celebration of simple Italian fare that was exceptionally well done...Even the MC couldn't help comment on the Mushroom Risotto in his speech - Perfezione!

To the exceptionally exquisite bride and Lo Spose... congratulazioni!!!!

So, after reading all about the above, you'll forgive me if my next post is devoted to Detoxing..... and my habitual course of deprivation following the excesses of holidays!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What can I say... with all the best intentions I haven't posted in months!

But I do have a good reason. 

The first quarter of 2011 started with the end of a job that I have had for the past 6 years... needless to say that was a busy time full of distraction. Three days after I finished, I jumped on a plane and spent 7 weeks rushing around Australia and New Zealand catching up with friends, family and indulging in some much needed sunshine. 

Murrays Beach, NSW, Australia

Optio Bay, Coromandel Peninsular, New Zealand
Green Lake, Rotorua, New Zealand

The trip ended with a wonderful 8 days in Thailand lolling about in the ocean and enjoying the scorching Thai sun, followed by a not so wonderful flight home that ended up taking 12 hours longer than it should have! 

So here I am, back in the UK ready to write. As you can imagine, a trip that that covered Australia, New Zealand and Thailand was filled with some amazing foodie delights.... and once I've got the rest of my photos organised I'll post all about it. However, in the meantime I am going to devote a post to comfort food, because lets face it - after 12 hours waiting in airports hoping that your plane is going to be allowed to take off soon, comfort food is just what the Doctor ordered!!

My comfort food of choice is Linguine pomodro - simple but delicious (and seriously high in Carbs!!) I have been after the perfect tomato sauce for pasta, for as long as I can remember. Yet every time I tried it turned out ..... disappointing. Then, I attended a cooking demonstration at La Cucina Caldesi and learned the secrets to a proper Italian tomato sauce. These are going to sound obvious.... but trust me they are small gems that make a massive difference:

 - Use a generous amount of olive oil (dieters look away now!!)
 - Onion should be cooked on a moderate heat for a longer period of time, as opposed to a blazing hot pan that scorches the onion. This brings out the sweetness of the onion. 
 - Garlic should be squashed with the flat side of a knife and removed from the sauce before serving. This will allow the garlic to delicately flavor the sauce as opposed to over power it. (DO NOT use a garlic crusher)
 - Salt the dish well (again this is comfort food - so no space for moderation!)
 - When using canned tomatoes try and use an Italian brand... as Italians know when to harvest tomatoes for the best results.

Ms McGarves Salsa di Pomodoro - Makes enough for one severely jet-lagged person!! 

4 tablespoons of good quality olive oil
1 brown onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, squashed (as per above)
1 400g tin of tinned tomatoes
A generous pinch of salt
pepper to taste
Shaved Parmesan - for serving

Heat the olive oil in a moderately hot pan for a couple of minutes and then add the onion and garlic. Cook the onion for about 8-10 minutes until tender and transparent. The aim here is to not let the onion brown at all. Turn the heat up a little and add the tomatoes and season with the salt. Cook for a further 8-10 minutes allowing the sauce to reduce and thicken.

Taste and add more salt if required and add pepper to taste. Remove the garlic (the clove should be about to fall apart, but for the most part still intact). 

Serve on a bed of linguine, top with shaved Parmesan and enjoy with a large glass of your favorite wine!!  

Buon appetito!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Where have you been International Foodie??

No doubt you have noticed my absence from the blogsphere of late... I have no real excuse - except to say that I've been busy, or rather distracted, and with the distraction has come the dreaded lack of inspiration. Or in other words... 'I've got nothing to write about'!

I have been feeling a little like I have lost my my foodie-mojo lately... so in an effort to try and re-ignite the passion for both cooking and writing I thought I'd do a round up of some of my foodie highlights of 2010... I Hope it works!!

2010 started and ended with bitter cold and huge amounts of snow. However, despite these inclement conditions our local farmers market soldiered on and provided cake, bread and wonderfully knobbly vegetables to grateful Hampstead residents:

I love this shot below because it looks like the tags are actually the cakes raising their hands begging customers to buy them!

During the long weekend in April a group of us took a leisurely stroll through the Heath and ended at a pub called The Old White Bear, where we played dominoes as we waited for our lunch. One thing I love about England is that walks through the countryside always end in a visit to a pub!

In June Chief Recipe Taster and I had a great evening out at the Taste Of London. We went from stall to stall trying wine, prosecco, limoncello and sampling tasters from some of London's best known restaurants (including one of my personal favourites, Salt Yard). Being a typical London event, we did all he above... in the rain!! 

Then, perhaps the highlight of the year, we took our first trip to the amazingly cool city of New York... what a place!!

There were familiar sites around every corner, and foodie treats galore. I mustt admit I was surprised to see fresh food stalls all around the city, selling fruit and veg that you would have to go to specialty organic shops to procure in London.

Seriously - that was the best (and the biggest) hot dog I've EVER had!!!!

We had a great afternoon at an uber-cool outdoor Brooklyn cafe, where the juice was served in jars and dogs got a little respite from the heat!

We couldn't resist a momentary lapse into extreme tourist mode to get at least one cheesy group shot (we were hoping to run into one of the Huckstables here)!

Our year ended off with a trip to Paris... the Foodie capital of the world and my dream city. 

There is no food-relevance to the shot below... I just love it!!!

Well, upon reflection I guess I actually have loads to write about!! 

No excuses now.

I'll see you in a couple of weeks!